The saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is most apt in estate planning. A well-meaning person may create a will with the goal of leaving property to grandchildren, only for the children or their parents to learn after the grandparent’s passing the law does not permit property to be transferred. A recent article titled “The Arcane Law That Could Derail Your Inheritance Plans” from yahoo! entertainment is a good example of the importance of estate planning attorneys to create effective estate plans.
The rule against perpetuities may prevent a property from remaining in the family, if it takes too long for the will’s conditions to be met.
The rule against perpetuities creates a standard for when an interest in land or property must vest. The rule against perpetuities stipulates that a will, estate plan or other legal documents intending to transfer property ownership more than twenty-one years after the death of the primary (decedent) becomes void.
This rule means a person can’t legally guarantee their grandchildren, great-grandchildren or other heirs in the future may retain ownership of the grantor’s property. This may be an obscure law. However, the problem becomes real if and when someone should challenge the will, as this is a legitimate legal argument to be made.
This is an old law dating back to 17th century England, when courts wanted heirs and descendants to be able to buy and sell land without the influence of ancestors who tried to control property over many generations. The United States adopted this law and while many legal authorities see it as being outdated, only some states have drafted modifications or new laws to change it.
In 1986, thirty-one states addressed the problem by drafting a “wait and see” approach, meaning an interest in the property must vest within ninety years of the implementation of a will or life estate. This has alleviated the limit, meaning a will or other transfer of property has nine decades to vest before it becomes void.
If your estate plan includes leaving assets for grandchildren, including real estate property, speak with your estate planning attorney about this admittedly arcane law. If your state is one that has not adopted the “wait and see” approach, you will be glad you prepared.